David Simonton was the first to tip me off to this amazing thing called the Do Good Fund some time in 2013. This Southern photography initiative was started by an attorney in Columbus, GA named Alan Rothschild. Alan is on the board of a private foundation and one of the innovative ideas the founder of the foundation implemented was to allow each board member to individually support small or start up charitable initiatives outside of the foundation's traditional giving pattern. Alan's idea was to bring contemporary photography of and about the South to non-traditional audiences in often non-traditional venues. His dream was to bring this vital work to school gymnasiums, community colleges, and regional museums and encourage community based programming around the exhibitions for people who don't frequent major museums. I checked out the work they had collected in a very short period of time and was mightily impressed-I wanted to have the NC debut exhibition at Cassilhaus.
I think Alan was a bit skeptical the first time I contacted him (crazy guy in NC who has a gallery in his house) and he was also overwhelmed with getting his program off the ground-he is a one man Do Good show and has a full time unrelated law practice. I gently persisted and in March of 2015 Alan agreed to the exhibition. I was thrilled. I immediately enlisted the aid of former Cassilhaus intern Rachel Boillot and Duke MFA|EDA director Tom Rankin to serve as curators for the exhibition and despite their incredibly busy schedules they agreed to the job. I was shooting to have the exhibition up for the Click! Triangle Photography Festival in October 2015. Through much of the late spring and summer Rachel and Tom poured over the collection and made the difficult choices to get a collection of almost 150 pieces down to about 45 that we could fit into the show. There was a good bit of overlap between the artists in our collection and those of the Do Good Fund and we had talked initially about combining work from both collections to make up the exhibition but in the end we decided to keep the Do Good work intact in the upstairs gallery and complementary work by the same artists from the Cassilhaus Collection downstairs in the entry gallery and I think it was a great solution. They developed a beautiful exhibition that they dubbed Tracing the American South: Photographs from the Do Good Fund. Our intern at the time Eric Pickersgill agreed to drive to Columbus in a rental van to pick up all of the work. (Click on images to enlarge)
Alan had found these groovy custom bubble wrap gallery bags that he had made to fit each of the individual pieces so packing was a breeze. It was super heavy duty plastic and the bubbles don't pop. I was in serious art envelope envy!! Working with our current interns Alyssa Miserendino and Michaela O'Brien we got the work spread throughout the gallery so Tom and Rachel could come and lay out the show.
After some significant curatorial deliberation we hung the show. The final checklist is here.
I can't remember a time when we hung a show at the house that I didn't know 90% of the images and 3/4s of the artists. It was disorienting at first and then sort of exhilarating. Each day I was making new discoveries and falling in love with images. That's what it is supposed to be about right? This is an iPhone panorama of the installation in progress.
Below is one of my favorite pairings in the show. On opposite sides of the gold colored wall, Jerry Siegel's 2007 image Shooter of a young African American women in a Selma Alabama arcade shooting bottles with a rifle and a confederate flag in the background juxtaposed with Charles Moore's 1963 image of young African American civil rights protesters being pummeled by spray from a fire hose in Birmingham Alabama. The rifle and the fire hose seemed to be trained on each other in this amazingly charged duo.
I fell in love with Susan Worsham's Young Boy Cleaning Church, VA 2011 and had to purchase a print for our collection. One of the many side benefits of doing these exhibitions is meeting and befriending artists included in the show. I got to know Eliot Dudik, Rylan Steele, and Susan Worsham through this show and also learned of the work of many more photographers previously unknown to me.
The opening was lots of fun as ususal.
Alan Rothschild (far left) came up from Columbus for the opening and made some remarks about the collection. It is inspiring what he is doing for the photography community.
Later in the run of the show we asked the two curators Tom Rankin and Rachel Boillot and two of the represented artists Susan Worsham and Aaron Canipe to do a panel discussion and it was a very lively one.
Tom and Rachel really wanted to do a publication for the exhibition with an interview with Alan and that is not something we have done before for our shows as we have no funding source for them. One of our wonderful Cassilhaus supporters, Mary Jane Rivers, stepped up and made a generous donation to make the publication possible and artist Aaron Canipe designed it. Thank you Mary Jane for this beautiful document of the exhibition!
The Do Good Fund is getting more and more ambitious with their programming and acquisitions and we were thrilled to be able to showcase the work in North Carolina. Stay tuned to their website for upcoming exhibitions. Alan signs off all of his emails with
Be Good | Do Good